Johnny Abarrientos provided leadership. Jojo Lastimosa provided key baskets down the stretch. Poch Juinio grabbed the rebounds and anchored the interior defense. Jeffrey Cariaso was the spunky guard who provided youthful energy on the floor.
Bong Hawkins? He pretty much did everything for the Alaska Milkmen, the 1996 Grand Slam champions of the PBA.
Scoring, rebounding, passing, defending – name it, and Bong Hawkins did it all on the floor for the Milkmen for seven championship-filled seasons.
From 1993 to 2000, “The Hawk” manned the power forward post for the Wilfred Uytengsu-owned franchise. Listed at 6-foot-4, Hawkins went toe-to-toe with the league’s premier big men of the 1990’s – Alvin Patrimonio, Benjie Paras and Nelson Asaytono. Then-Alaska Head Coach Tim Cone would also designate Hawkins as his “import defender” during import-laden conferences. Utilizing his wits and uncanny ability to disrupt passing lanes, Hawkins was Alaska’s prized defender in the low block against either local or foreign opposition.
Hawkins’ haul of accolades
The 1996 Grand Slam season was also the most fruitful for Hawkins in terms of individual awards. In the Commissioner’s Cup Finals, Hawkins was named the Finals MVP for being one of Alaska’s solid contributors in their championship conquest against Formula Shell. He then joined his Alaska compatriots Johnny Abarrientos and Jojo Lastimosa in the Mythical First Team of the 1996 season.
In a 15-year PBA career which started in 1991 with Presto, Hawkins tallied 8,238 points, 4,119 rebounds and 1,715 assists in 613 games. Hawkins is a 10-time PBA champion, winning nine with Alaska and one with the Coca-Cola Tigers. Hawkin’s jersey number 16 was retired by the Alaska franchise in 2010 as a fitting tribute for his invaluable contributions to the team.
So when talks for possible inductees in the illustrious 40 Greatest Players List came about, a handful of basketball pundits lobbied for Hawkins. Along with the other non-MVP’s, Hawkins was shortlisted in the selection together with Nelson Asaytono, Danny Seigle, Olsen Racela, Abe King and the late Arnie Tuadles, to name a few.
No spot left for “The Hawk”?
But with only five slots remaining for non-MVP’s, Hawkins was eventually left out from the list. Claiming spots in the 40 Greatest Players’ List were Chito Loyzaga, Marlou Aquino, Kerby Raymundo, Jayson Castro and Jean Marc Pingris.
Did Hawkins deserve to be on the list? He had the championships, statistics and individual awards that would have resulted to an automatic inclusion.
But to be included in the list, Hawkins had to contend with stacked opposition at the forward spot. Aside from Asaytono, Seigle, King and Tuadles, other nominees were Manny Victorino and Yoyoy Villamin.
When he played for Alaska, Hawkins took the backseat behind his team’s stars – first, behind Abarrientos and Lastimosa, and behind Kenneth Duremdes in 1997. The three landed spots in the 40 Greatest Players’ List, with Hawkins being the odd man out.
Nevertheless, Hawkins was the do-it-all forward who contented himself with doing the dirty work. Hawkins could silently fill his stat sheet with the usual numbers, but his impact for Alaska went beyond statistics.
Would those nine championships – especially that 1996 Grand Slam – happen if Alaska did not have Hawkins in their fold? That’s unlikely.
Photo Credits: Philippine Basketball Association Retro 80s & 90s Facebook Page